Toks is a British-Nigerian businesswoman and the founder of The Baby Cot Shop, a luxury baby furniture brand based in London.
She hosts the acclaimed podcast, Living Inside Out with Toks, which focuses on entrepreneurship, faith and mindset.
A sought after speaker best known for her authentic storytelling style, she helps women unwrap their gifts so they can play bigger.
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2 Nov 2022
What was the inspiration behind The Baby Cot Shop?
My journey into nursery furniture and interiors began when I tried to return to work as a Pharmaceutical Representative following the birth of my third son.
My former employers were unwilling to give me suitable hours. I happened to be reading a book where the author described one's gift as the thing you do so effortlessly that everyone thinks it's a big deal- except you. For me, that was interior design.
So I enrolled in several design courses and launched a residential design firm.
My husband and I both loved travelling and went to the United States so often that we decided to emigrate. In the process, I acquired a gorgeous boutique selling luxury furniture and decor for babies and children.
I merged my interior design background with selling beautiful nursery and children's rooms and began to specialise as an interior designer for babies and children.
I lost the business in the 2008 recession and returned to the UK to weather the storm. I was also expecting my fourth son. We lost everything- and had to move in with friends.
I researched the UK market and saw that there was nothing remotely close to what we had been doing in the USA. So I travelled around Europe to meet artisans who could deliver high quality, beautiful furniture and curated a selection for our then online store.
The demand to see the furniture in person led me to open our first location on the King's Road in Chelsea; in 2017 and we launched our brand of furniture, linens and decor- designed in-house by The Baby Cot Shop team in 2021.
Why do you feel interior design is your gift?
I have always had a flair for arranging things. As a little girl, I would sit in front of my mother's dressing table and rearrange her lotions and potions. And she had a lot, LOL and then I moved on to rearranging our living room at every chance I got.
When I was ten, I made my first dollhouse using leftover materials from my parents' new kitchen.
I have always loved colour and fabrics, and I enjoy transforming the ambience of a home using lighting and accessories. For years I assumed everyone did too. It wasn't until I was in my twenties, when friends and family began to ask me for design advice or to go with them to IKEA and help select decor that I realised I had something different. And then reading that book sealed it for me; I was and have always been a natural.
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What was your introduction to high-end products?
My introduction to high-end products happened in the United States. I became acquainted with craftsmanship, premium materials and design on a standard I hadn't seen before.
My boutique was located in Buckhead, an affluent Atlanta neighbourhood, and working with well-heeled clientele exposed me to luxury homes and interiors.
What business advice were you given?
None, lol. I was new to business and jumped in at the deep end. None of my friends or family owned a business, so it was all very new.
The first piece of advice I received was from a client who became a friend. I recall that day; I had prayed for a mentor as I wasn't sure I knew what I was doing. In walks this gorgeous lady who came in to buy a Moses basket for her grandchild. And she asked, 'Do you take American Express?’ We didn’t.
She advised me why I needed to make the shopping process simple and stress-free for my customers and give them what they wanted. That was my first piece of advice.
What was your biggest challenge in setting up the business?
My biggest challenge in setting up The Baby Cot Shop was convincing suppliers to let me sell their products. Most of them wanted me to either have a physical location, i.e. Bricks & Mortar, or invest thousands in buying stock.
I had lost everything and was starting from scratch; I couldn't even afford a web designer. I taught myself to build a website and spent £75. That was my start-up capital, lol.
So I couldn't afford to buy stock. I overcame the objection by heading to Europe to meet skilled artisans, not known outside their locality, and we agreed on favourable terms that would benefit both businesses.
Did you have previous business experience?
No. My only experience with a business was working as an Asda checkout girl in my student days!
How do you balance motherhood and business?
I believe this type of balance is an emotional rather than a physical state.
Most women will not deliberately choose their business over their children, yet we battle guilt that suggests we do. So I involve my children. I tell them stories of what's happening in the business. I share any lessons I am learning with them.
They also work for me - when they need money, they ask for work so I can pay them. That is how I have overcome thoughts that made me feel I was spending more time with the business than with my kids.
I also have a very supportive husband. I compartmentalise my roles- business woman, homemaker, wife, mother, writer, etc and I am intentional in recognising how I give to those areas daily.
Every time I hug a child or listen to what happened at school today, I am mothering well. Each time I do a laundry load, I am blessing my home. The consciousness of blessing each area - even in a small way- helps me to feel balanced.
Do you work with a team?
Yes, we are a team of seven fantastic ladies.
Would you say the market has slowed down after the pandemic?
There has been a change in the market.
Interestingly, we rebranded and launched our collection in the middle of the pandemic. This move was necessary so our clients would recognise the synergy between our products and their tastes from a distance.
So in many ways, our client base has also shifted, and the business we have today is very different from the pre-pandemic one.
Do you feel that more women should be starting and growing their own businesses?
Absolutely! We are all gifted and have something incredibly unique to offer.
Using your gift and being compensated for it is fulfilling on many levels.
In addition, you are empowered because you control your advancement.
Entrepreneurship is a school in itself and the growth of the business is dependent on your transformation; and transformation comes as you overcome difficult situations in your business..